Gotham Gazette https://www.gothamgazette.com/component/tags/tag/3126 Sun, 16 May 2021 03:55:52 +0000 Joomla! - Open Source Content Management en-gb webmaster@gothamgazette.com (Webmaster) What's The [DATA] Point? $250 Billion, Democratic Comptroller Candidate Forum https://www.gothamgazette.com/city/10456-whats-the-data-point-250-billion-nyc-comptroller-candidates https://www.gothamgazette.com/city/10456-whats-the-data-point-250-billion-nyc-comptroller-candidates whats the data point


What's The [Data] Point? Episode 107 -- $250 billion [You can download What's The [Data] Point? wherever you get your podcasts, including on iTunes]

$250 billion—the assets held by the five pensions funds for which the New York City Comptroller is custodian, administrator, and investment advisor. But that's not the Comptroller's only responsibility. On a special episode of "What's the [DATA] Point?" with an introduction from Ben Max and Andrew Rein, listeners will hear CBC's "Comptroller Candidate Forum: Accountability, Not Just Accounting," which featured 13-minute conversations with each of six candidates for NYC Comptroller: Brad Lander, Zach Iscol, Brian Benjamin, Michelle Caruso-Cabrera, Corey Johnson, and David Weprin. Each candidate shared how they plan to use the powers of the NYC Comptroller to serve the people of New York.

Listen to the conversation and let us know what you think: @TweetBenMax (@TweetBenMax) & @CBCNY (@CBCNY). Listen below or download wherever you get your podcasts!

What's The [DATA] Point? · Episode 107: $250 billion, CBC's Comptroller Candidate Forum

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by Ben Max, Gotham Gazette
     

Read more by this writer.

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What's The [DATA] Point? $250 Billion, Democratic Comptroller Candidate Forum Sun, 09 May 2021 04:00:00 +0000
Democratic Comptroller Candidates Pitch Skills and Plans to Budget Watchdog https://www.gothamgazette.com/city/10446-democratic-comptroller-candidates-pitch-skills-plans-budget https://www.gothamgazette.com/city/10446-democratic-comptroller-candidates-pitch-skills-plans-budget Brad Lander, Brian Benjamin, Michelle Caruso-Cabrera, Corey Johnson, David Weprin, Zach Iscol

(l-r) Brad Lander, Brian Benjamin, Michelle Caruso-Cabrera, Corey Johnson, David Weprin, Zach Iscol


Six leading candidates running in the Democratic primary for New York City Comptroller in the June election appeared at a forum on Tuesday to offer their perspectives on the role of the office, solutions to the city’s uncertain fiscal future, and how they would wield their powers to ensure city government is effective and fiscally responsible. 

The candidates at the forum, hosted by Citizens Budget Commission, a nonprofit fiscal watchdog group, included Brooklyn City Council Member Brad Lander, military veteran and entrepreneur Zach Iscol, Manhattan State Senator Brian Benjamin, financial journalist Michelle Caruso-Cabrera, City Council Speaker Corey Johnson, and Queens Assemblymember David Weprin. The candidates, selected by CBC from about 10 who will be on the ballot, seemingly based on their fundraising and polling, sought to tout their credentials and set their campaigns apart with just six weeks till the primary, which will be run with ranked-choice voting for the first time and, given Democrats’ heavy enrollment advantage, is all but assured to determine the next city comptroller.

The forum, where candidates appeared one at a time to take questions from CBC President Andrew Rein, showed significant differences among the contenders’ resumes, priorities, and plans for the office.

The comptroller is the city’s top fiscal officer and oversees the city government expenditures, tax revenues, pension investments, settlement of claims, auditing of city agency performance, among other roles. The office also provides a bully pulpit to hold the mayoral administration’s feet to the fire and can act as a springboard to running for higher office – current Comptroller Scott Stringer, a Democrat, is term-limited and is running in the primary to replace outgoing Mayor Bill de Blasio. His predecessor, John Liu, also ran for mayor, and is now a state senator.

The next comptroller will be called on to keep a watchful eye on the city budget at a crucial juncture. After the fiscal devastation of the coronavirus pandemic, New York City received $6 billion in direct budgetary aid to plug tax revenue holes through President Joe Biden’s American Rescue Plan, along with $7 billion for public schools and $1 billion in reimbursements through the Federal Emergency Management Agency. That has helped Mayor de Blasio balance the current and next fiscal years’ budgets, but gaps of nearly $4 billion for the next three fiscal years remain in the city’s latest projections, though there are a great many unknowns about how the city’s economy will bounce back and what tax revenues may look like. There are a number of reasons for concern and for optimism.

As Rein pointed out at the forum, those gaps are closer to $5 billion because the mayor has promised $1 billion in labor savings without specifying how he will achieve them. At the same time, the city’s pension obligations are also growing and the city will spend $10.3 billion on pension contributions from its operating budget in the next fiscal year, about $1 billion higher than five years ago.

At Tuesday’s forum, the six candidates presented different priorities for their approach to the office, but they all shared some similar views. Every one of them said that the city should be required to put money into a rainy day fund when the economy is growing and should only be able to withdraw from it in times of recession. They also agreed that the city’s Retiree Health Benefits Trust fund remains woefully underfunded and should be bolstered to protect the city’s pensioners. They did split on whether there are any situations where the state Financial Control Board should have the authority to approve the city’s fiscal actions – Iscol, Benjamin, and Caruso-Cabrera said the board should be able to do so if the city’s finances, particularly debt, get out of control, harkening back to the board’s creation during the city’s 1970s fiscal crisis. 

On a scale from one to five, the candidates almost all gave themselves a “four” on their familiarity with Generally Accepted Accounting Principles – Caruso-Cabrera gave herself a “three to four” while Weprin gave himself a “four-and-a-half” rating. 

Brad Lander
Lander, who has represented Council District 39 since 2010, said the next comptroller needs to closely watch how federal aid is spent, and has proposed an American Rescue Plan spending tracker, which he hopes to create through legislation before the City Council.  

“The job of the comptroller is to take the long-term view on the city to make sure we're spending wisely, that we invest in ways that stimulate recovery, to hold the city accountable to our shared goals and to prepare better for future crises,” he said. 

Lander said among his main priorities would be to ensure the one-time federal aid is spent wisely and the city doesn’t “create new longer-term obligations that we can't afford down the road.” He said he would continue to push for reforms to the city’s capital spending, which is between $8 and $10 billion each year and Lander has focused on during his Council tenure.

“Right now, more than half of that is over budget or behind schedule, and I'll push for reforms that can save hundreds of millions of dollars every year and get better infrastructure created on time,” he said. And he promised to undertake a “catastrophic risk assessment” as soon as he enters office to evaluate the long-term fiscal risks to the city.

Pressed to reconcile his progressive beliefs in expansive government with his push for fiscal responsibility, Lander said, “I want bold government action to help us recover from this crisis. We've needed it in this crisis, and we're going to need it to recover from this crisis to build a platform for shared economic growth...To me, not only is there not a contradiction, it's an obligation of progressives to care about the budget, to care about the details, to get in there and really understand how we make government work better.”

Among the ways he said he would push for more savings by the city is a Program to Eliminate the Gap (PEG) with a focus on employee attrition, using the comptroller’s office to identify which agencies can save the most funds through headcount reduction. Lander wants to use the auditing powers of the office to more strategically audit agencies, providing them with goals of improvement to meet rather than just point to deficiencies. 

Lander said it may be prudent for the city to reduce it’s target of pension returns from 7% to 6.8% to ensure that the pension funds don’t make risky investments even if it means paying more into them each year through the city budget.

Zach Iscol
Iscol abandoned a campaign for mayor to jump into the comptroller’s race instead. “There is a reason that this is not an office that works for the mayor,” he said on Tuesday. “I think a lot of people often talk about the comptroller as the chief financial officer for the city. I actually don't see it that way...I think that this role really more than anything else is the chief accountability officer of the city, the person whose job it is is to make sure the city is doing its job.”

Iscol said he would create benchmarks for finding savings and addressing the structural fiscal deficiencies in the budget, criticizing the current comptroller for not going far enough to identify savings. “Making sure city spending is tied to outcomes will be a huge priority, especially in the approval of city contracts,” he said. 

He also said he would find creative ways to use the office to spur the city’s economic revival, though he did not offer specific solutions. On savings as well, he provided vague answers, as de Blasio has, for balancing the budget with labor savings. “I would be looking for healthcare savings, I would be looking for labor savings. I would be making investments in the labor force,” he said. “I think this is one thing that people get wrong. We think of labor savings as meaning that you're going to be cutting the workforce. I actually think that when you make cuts, when you don't pay people market rates...you're not investing in the workforce.”

He did point to one specific area where savings could be achieved: reducing the city’s reliance on outside consultants.

Iscol was more definitive when asked for agencies for which he would set benchmarks in audits to measure their performance, citing the Department of Sanitation and the Department of Homeless Services. He said he would look to other municipalities that have lower costs of sanitation services and those that have ended veteran homelessness, a particular concern for him.

Iscol said he’d use the power over contract approval to ensure that providers are meeting specific outcomes. “Creating benchmarks is partly about looking around the world, looking around the country, looking at other municipalities and seeing how other places are solving these problems, seeing how much they are spending, seeing what solutions they're bringing to bear,” he said. “We don't have to always reinvent the wheel here at home.”

To improve pension returns, he said he would implement several more recommendations from a 2015 report commissioned by Stringer’s office, which he said could lead to between 1-2% more in returns for the city.  

Brian Benjamin
Benjamin was reelected last year to represent Senate District 30, which includes Harlem, the Upper West Side, Washington Heights, Hamilton Heights, and Morningside Heights. 

He said he would be “completely focused on auditing and investigating city agencies,” particularly the NYPD and the Department of Education for performance audits “because if those two agencies don't work for the city of New York, particularly for those who are most underserved and marginalized, the whole system doesn't work.”

On the NYPD, specifically, he said, “For me it's more about how are we making sure that every single dollar we spend is most efficiently keeping us safe. And I think that there is, if you really dig into the budget you'll find...there's a lot there that should probably be someplace else.”

Relying on his previous investment banking and wealth management experience at Morgan Stanley, Benjamin said he would use the comptroller’s office to make targeted investments that support underserved communities, such as investing in affordable housing, affordable homeownership and permanent supportive housing, while also ensuring an adequate rate of return for the pension funds. 

But his immediate attention would go to the federal stimulus funding. “We need to make sure that that money is being spent, and that it's helping to drive the recovery, and what we need to be concerned about is, is that money going towards recurring or non recurring expenses? Because if we are putting that money towards expenses that recur, we're setting the city up for failure,” he said. 

Benjamin also serves on the board of Brown University, his alma mater, and has repeatedly touted the success of its investment committee, promising to bring that same approach to the comptroller’s office. He said he would work to attract top talent from the private sector to appoint a chief investment officer and others in the Bureau of Asset Management, though he noted that the public sector does not have the ability to pay comparative salaries to the private sector. “The key is to not villainize people, but to reach out to people and say, ‘Listen, this is your city. You have enormous experience. You've done extremely well. New York City has been incredibly valuable to you. I need you to give back and play this important role,’” he said.  

“I think there's a real opportunity for the investment class to play an important role in our recovery,” he added. 

Michelle Caruso-Cabrera
Caruso-Cabrera noted she is the only woman in the ‘top tier’ of candidates, though there are other female candidates in the race as well (who have extensive relevant experience but are unknown and have struggled to raise funds), and the sole Latino candidate in that tier.

Caruso-Cabrera’s pitch for comptroller derives heavily from her decades-long experience as a financial journalist, covering financial crises and recoveries across the globe in countries including Cuba, Iran, Ukraine, Iraq, Italy, Greece, Russia, and Venezuela. “Those are of course, all very different places, but in each, it was always the same. Marginalized and underserved communities always paid a disproportionate price when disaster struck...And as a journalist I saw over and over again that those who can least afford to pay, they always end up paying the most and I'm very worried that without the right kind of leadership in the city, we could easily go down the same path,” she said. 

Caruso-Cabrera wants to use the office of comptroller to ensure the city has an equitable recovery from the pandemic, using forensic audits to ensure that city funds are spent wisely. “I know how to use income statements, balance sheets, and cash flows to be both tools, and in the right hands, they can be weapons,” she said. 

 

As she rightly pointed out, the office is a helpful stepping stone for greater political ambitions and she has called on the other candidates to pledge not to run for mayor – along with Iscol, Council Speaker Johnson also gave up running for mayor to join the comptroller’s race. But Caruso-Cabrera is solely focused on the job, she said. “I just want to really do the job because I know how important it is in this moment in time that New York City has a turnaround,” she said. 

Among the agencies that she vowed to audit as comptroller is New York City Health + Hospitals, a public benefit corporation and quasi-city agency that runs the largest public hospital system in the country. She pointed, for instance, to Elmhurst Hospital, which was inundated with patients at the height of the pandemic last year while other hospitals had ample space. “Clearly there are tremendous inefficiencies there that led to the most vulnerable people in our city suffering the most,” Caruso-Cabrera said. She also promised to closely examine the Department of Education and the NYPD. “What does the NYPD spend their money on? I want to know, because it's very controversial right now. So I've seen a couple of performance audits, I want to look at the whole gamut.”

She said the city pension funds should likely use a “barbell strategy” that balances high-risk and low-risk investments until there is an increase in interest rates. “I think we should be more liquid, and if it comes down to it, we need to make clear to the City Council the costs they are running up when they do not actually fund a lot of the outstanding costs related to our retirees, not just the pension funds,” she said. 

Corey Johnson
Johnson is serving out his second and final term on the Council, where he represents District 3 on the West side of Manhattan and has been speaker for the current term. “I'll make sure that every dollar we get for covid relief is targeted directly to our recovery and the New Yorkers who need it most,” he said on Tuesday, promising that as comptroller, he’ll create a Recovery and Rebuilding Unit within the office. 

As with the other candidates, Johnson has promised to undertake performance-based audits of the largest agencies including those for education, policing, homeless services, and housing. “The comptroller has subpoena power, the comptroller has audit power, and the goal is to provide that information to the Council and to the next mayor so that when they're making budgetary decisions, they're hopefully putting money into programs that are working and taking money away from programs that aren't working,” he said. 

Johnson has proposed a few new ways that he would structure the functions of the comptroller. He would create a new database of Audits, Claims, Efficacy and Settlements (ACES), which would combine various reports put out by the office to help the public compare an agency’s performance along those different lines.  

He has also proposed creating a CLIMB (Capital Lending and Investing for Minority Owned Businesses) fund that would provide low-interest loans through the pension funds to small minority-owned businesses in communities hardest hit by the pandemic. 

On the pension front, Johnson said the city should reduce its reliance on outside investment managers, who are paid up to $800 million in fees each year. “We should have looked at...would common index funds actually get a similar return on investment than some of the outside investment funds we're using right now? You'd cut down on the fees and you actually may get a better return than the annual expected return,” he said. 

David Weprin
Weprin has represented Assembly District 24 in Queens for five terms. He often touts his previous experience on the City Council, chairing the prominent finance committee during previous fiscal crises, and his work for major financial firms on Wall Street for two decades, among other experience, as his qualifications for comptroller. 

As comptroller, Weprin has promised to open up satellite offices across the five boroughs to expand the comptroller’s reach and provide assistance to small businesses and minority- and women-owned businesses (M/WBEs) as they attempt to access federal stimulus funds to recover from the pandemic. “I think that's a legitimate function for the controller to get involved in,” he said when Rein pushed on the function of opening those offices to help businesses. 

Weprin wants to conduct regular audits of every agency, on an annual basis as opposed to every four years as required by the City Charter. He said he wouldn’t hesitate to increase the office’s auditing staff to meet that goal, ensuring it could be funded by finding savings elsewhere and auditing the outside contracting budget. “There's a lot of waste in some of those contracts,” he said. 

He also promised to streamline the process of registering contracts for nonprofit human service providers, who often can go months, if not more than a year, without being paid, forcing them to the brink of insolvency.

The Democratic primary for Comptroller, like other primaries for city government positions, will take place in June, with early voting June 12-20 and primary day June 22. Also running in the Democratic primary are Reshma Patel, Terri Liftin, and State Senator Kevin Parker.

For more on the Comptroller candidates, watch each talk with Gotham Gazette editor Ben Max about their resumes and priorities:

WATCH: 30 Minutes with the Candidates for New York City Comptroller

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by Samar Khurshid, senior reporter, Gotham Gazette
     

Read more by this writer.

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Democratic Comptroller Candidates Pitch Skills and Plans to Budget Watchdog Wed, 05 May 2021 04:00:00 +0000
WATCH: 30 Minutes with the Candidates for New York City Comptroller https://www.gothamgazette.com/city/10395-watch-interviews-democratic-candidates-new-york-city-comptroller https://www.gothamgazette.com/city/10395-watch-interviews-democratic-candidates-new-york-city-comptroller 5x4 comptrollerl

(l-r) top: Brian Benjamin, Brad Lander, Kevin Parker, David Weprin, Corey Johnson; bottom: Reshma Patel, Zach Iscol, Michelle Caruso-Cabrera, Ter ri Liftin


The Democratic candidates for New York City Comptroller joined "Decision NYC with Ben Max" for in-depth one-on-one interviews about their campaigns and visions for holding the position as the city's next chief fiscal officer and government watchdog. The candidates spoke with Gotham Gazette editor Ben Max about their resumes and platforms, auditing city government, managing the public pension funds, and much more in this series produced by Manhattan Neighborhood Network.

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WATCH: 30 Minutes with the Candidates for New York City Comptroller Fri, 30 Apr 2021 04:00:00 +0000
Decision NYC: Zach Iscol Discusses His Run for Comptroller https://www.gothamgazette.com/city/10388-decision-nyc-zach-iscol-runs-nyc-comptroller https://www.gothamgazette.com/city/10388-decision-nyc-zach-iscol-runs-nyc-comptroller Gotham Gazette:

Zach Iscol at a rally (photo: Iscol campaign)


As part of the "Decision NYC with Ben Max" series of candidate interviews from Manhattan Neighborhood Network and Gotham Gazette, Democratic candidates for New York City Comptroller talked about their campaigns ahead of the June primary. In this episode, Zach Iscol joined host Ben Max to explain his vision for the role. Watch:

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Decision NYC: Zach Iscol Discusses His Run for Comptroller Thu, 22 Apr 2021 04:00:00 +0000
Jumpstarting New York’s Green Building Boom https://www.gothamgazette.com/130-opinion/10396-jumpstarting-new-york-city-green-building-boom https://www.gothamgazette.com/130-opinion/10396-jumpstarting-new-york-city-green-building-boom green new deal

Greening buildings (photo: Michael Appleton/Mayoral Photography)


In 2019, the City Council and Mayor de Blasio passed into law one of the most ambitious pieces of climate change legislation in the country. Local Law 97 will impact 57,000 buildings across the city, with the goal of reducing citywide emissions by 40% by 2030. This is great news for the environment -- commercial and institutional building emissions are the second largest source of carbon emissions in the city, equal to the entire transportation sector. However, if you’re a commercial real estate owner looking at the need to retrofit your entire building, you’re looking at a pretty hefty bill to comply. 

At the moment, real estate owners will need to put up about $20 billion for Local Law 97 to be successful. For context, last year they spent about a quarter of a million dollars on these types of projects. And, while there are some financing programs available to help with energy efficiency upgrades, the city needs to provide significantly more upfront funding for the law to succeed. If elected the next City Comptroller, I’ll work to fix that -- and improve the city’s ability to deliver more services to its residents -- by instructing the Bureau of Public Finance to issue at least $10 billion in new financing and bring the city that much closer to reaching its carbon emission reduction goals.

Social Impact Bonds are bonds that pay out interest and principal based on savings accrued through measures that have social benefit. Basically, they pay for success. In the case of Local Law 97, the Bureau would issue bonds, with proceeds of those sales directed to local green banks, like the NYC Energy Efficiency Corporation, or other nonprofit entities tasked with providing Property Assessed Clean Energy (“PACE”) financing to building owners to retrofit their buildings. One of the best case studies for investing in energy efficiency is the Empire State Building, which spent $30 million on energy efficiencies retrofits. It’s saved the building $4.5 million a year and will pay for itself within 10 years. Over 30 years, this $30 million investment will have saved over $135 million. But $30 million is a lot of money, and few will have that sort of up-front capital. 

Making social impact bonds available for these activities could significantly improve how many owners comply with Local Law 97, ultimately helping to create more union retrofitting jobs for New Yorkers, pump demand for related work, and put us on track to meet our environmental goals. That’s a big win-win-win. With the right outreach, issuing these bonds could also help address a major deficit of the law -- it does little to promote financing of energy efficiency retrofits in buildings below 50,000 square feet. How many jobs could this create in total? Urban Green Council estimates that retrofits for commercial and residential buildings would create 141,000 jobs by 2030. I would work hard to ensure as many of these as possible are at minority- or women-owned businesses.

Energy efficiency isn’t the only place these bonds could be used. Social impact bonds can be used to reduce recidivism, address homelessness, even help create workforce programs. They help combat perverse incentive structures by ensuring that we pay for results. 

This all might sound wonky, but the impact on people’s lives is real. Cleaner air, more good quality jobs for residents, more homeless people helped into homes. COVID-19 devastated the city’s budget and caused the largest economic downturn in living memory. The moment demands more from the city’s elected leaders. It demands we think creatively about how to provide better services while spending less money. As your next Comptroller, I’ll be looking for every way I can use the office to lead the city’s recovery from COVID and make sure that our city residents, not special interests, get the services they need. Social Impact Bonds are a big way we can do that.

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Zach Iscol is a Democratic candidate for New York City Comptroller. On Twitter @zachiscol.

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Have an op-ed idea or submission for Gotham Gazette? Email opinion@gothamgazette.com

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Jumpstarting New York’s Green Building Boom Wed, 21 Apr 2021 04:00:00 +0000
The Money Race in the Democratic Comptroller Primary: March Filing Sets Stage for Final Months https://www.gothamgazette.com/city/10275-money-race-democratic-nyc-comptroller-primary-march-filing https://www.gothamgazette.com/city/10275-money-race-democratic-nyc-comptroller-primary-march-filing 4x4 final

top l-r: Brian Benjamin, Brad Lander, Kevin Parker David Weprin; bottom: Reshma Patel, Zach Iscol, Michelle Caruso-Cabrera, Terri Liftin


With just three months until the June primary, Democratic candidates running for New York City Comptroller filed their latest campaign finance disclosures with the Campaign Finance Board. The filings covered the last two months of fundraising and spending activity, and provide keen insight into which candidates have broad support and significant resources for the closing stretch of the race.

Nearly all the major Democratic candidates are participating in the city’s public matching funds program, under new rules that match up to the first $250 of every qualifying contribution from city residents at an 8-to-1. None of the top candidates have opted into the old system, which provides a lower match but has higher contribution limits. To qualify for public funds, candidates had to meet a dual threshold of raising and spending at least $125,000 from a minimum of 500 donors that are New York City residents. Participants must also abide by a $4.55 million spending limit for the primary.

The main candidates include several sitting elected officials: Manhattan State Senator Brian Benjamin, Brooklyn City Council Member Brad Lander, City Council Speaker Corey Johnson of Manhattan, Queens State Assemblymember David Weprin, and Brooklyn State Senator Kevin Parker. They are joined by several first-time candidates that include compliance and investment expert Terri Liftin, finance executive Reshma Patel, and military veteran and entrepreneur Zach Iscol, who in January shifted from the mayor’s race to run to be the city’s next chief fiscal officer, as well as finance journalist Michelle Caruso-Cabrera, who challenged Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez in last year’s congressional primary.

Johnson also shifted his intentions from mayor to comptroller, with months of pause in between before making this run official earlier this month. Given his citywide perch, name recognition among the political class, ability to bring in endorsements, and prior fundraising, he was immediately seen as among the frontrunners.

Lander continues to lead the race in fundraising. He has raised more than $4 million in sum, including $3.1 million public matching funds. He raised $824,000 from New York City residents and about $45,000 from outside the city. He has about $3.4 million in cash on hand as of the new filing. He has a total of 5,123 donors with an average contribution of $170. He also has about $70,000 in matching claims from the latest filing period, which could bring in another $560,000 in public funds next month.

Iscol has raised about $2.3 million, including $1.4 million in public funds. About $515,000 of his fundraising came from within the city and $374,000 from outside. He has nearly $1.7 million in cash on hand as of the filing. He had a total of 2,348 donors and received an average contribution of $379. In his latest filing, he has nearly $52,000 in matching claims that would equal $416,000 in additional matching funds if approved by the Campaign Finance Board.

Benjamin has raised nearly $2.1 million, which includes $1.3 million in public funds. He raised $561,000 from within the city and $226,000 from outside donors. He has a total of 2,503 donors for an average contribution of $315. He has about $1.7 million in cash on hand as of the filing. His latest matching claims of about $46,000 would bring in another $368,000 in public funds next month.

Weprin, who ran for comptroller back in 2009 as well after a stint in the City Council, has raised about $1.86 million, of which $1.3 million came in the form of public funds. He has 1,642 donors and an average contribution size of $321. He raised about $430,000 from city residents and about $97,000 from outside donors. He has $1.5 million in cash on hand as of the filing. He could receive roughly $224,000 in additional public funds next month against his $28,000 in matching claims from the latest disclosure period, pending Board vetting.

Corey JohnsonJohnson has not raised any funds in recent months leading up to the filing, but still has a healthy campaign cash balance. He had raised nearly $860,000 for his aborted mayoral campaign and has nearly $575,000 in cash on hand as of this filing. He has a total of 4,850 donors who gave an aver age of $159 -- when he was fundraising for a mayoral run, Johnson had capped all donations at $250. About $657,000 of his funds came from city residents and $112,000 from nonresidents. His late entry into the race means he has not yet received any public funds but he seems to have crossed the necessary thresholds to receive a payment next month. His campaign claims more than $600,000 in matchable contributions, which would net him $4.8 million in public funds, surpassing the spending limit for the primary and giving him a major windfall for the final two months of the Democratic campaign.

Caruso-Cabrera, has raised just over $515,000 for her comptroller campaign from 369 donors that contributed an average of $1,396. She raised $245,000 from within the city and about $270,000 from outside of it. She has about $387,000 in cash on hand as of the filing. Caruso-Cabrera has not yet qualified for public matching funds. Her campaign declared about $21,600 in matchable contributions, falling well below the threshold.

State Senator Parker is far behind aforementioned candidates. He has raised $214,000 from 1,066 contributors who gave an average of $201. He raised $165,000 from city residents and just under $49,000 from nonresidents. He has about $107,000 in cash on hand as of the filing. With only about $90,000 in matchable contributions, he too failed to qualify for public funds.

Liftin has raised $102,000 from 191 contributors that donated an average of $535. She raised about $45,000 from within the city and about $57,000 from outside donors. She has less than $14,000 in cash on hand as of the filing.

Patel has raised just over $90,000, of which about $54,000 came from city residents and $36,000 from outside the city. She had 421 donors for an average contribution of $214. She has just under $57,000 in cash on hand as of the filing.

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by Samar Khurshid, senior reporter, Gotham Gazette
     

Read more by this writer.

Johnson photo inset: John McCarten/City Council

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The Money Race in the Democratic Comptroller Primary: March Filing Sets Stage for Final Months Tue, 16 Mar 2021 04:00:00 +0000
Max & Murphy Podcast: Zach Iscol is Running for Comptroller https://www.gothamgazette.com/city/10201-max-murphy-podcast-zach-iscol-running-nyc-comptroller https://www.gothamgazette.com/city/10201-max-murphy-podcast-zach-iscol-running-nyc-comptroller zach iscool comp

Zach Iscol (photo: Iscool campaign)


February 24, 2021 - Max & Murphy Podcast: Zach Iscol is Running for Comptroller

Zach Iscol, a Democrat running for New York City Comptroller, joined the show to discuss his campaign.

Listen to the conversation and let us know what you think -- we're on Twitter @TweetBenMax and @JarrettMurphy. You can listen to the show through the embedded audio below or download the episode wherever you get your podcasts, under "Max & Murphy," and listen to Max & Murphy live on Wednesdays at 5 p.m. on WBAI radio, 99.5FM or wbai.org.

Max & Murphy · Episode 281: Zach Iscol Is Running For Comptroller

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by Ben Max, Gotham Gazette
     

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Max & Murphy Podcast: Zach Iscol is Running for Comptroller Wed, 24 Feb 2021 05:00:00 +0000
Decision NYC: Zach Iscol Discusses His Campaign https://www.gothamgazette.com/city/10124-decision-nyc-zach-iscol-campaign-comptroller-2021 https://www.gothamgazette.com/city/10124-decision-nyc-zach-iscol-campaign-comptroller-2021 comp iscool saved

Zach Iscol at a rally (photo: Iscol campaign)


Zach Iscol, a Democrat running for Comptroller in the 2021 election, joined MNN's "Decision NYC with Ben Max" for an in-depth discussion of his candidacy. This interview is part of a series produced by Manhattan Neighborhood Network and was conducted when Iscol was in the running for Mayor — he has since shifted to the Comptroller race. Watch:

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Decision NYC: Zach Iscol Discusses His Campaign Sun, 31 Jan 2021 05:00:00 +0000
The Money Race in the Mayoral Primary: January Filing Sets the Stage for 2021 https://www.gothamgazette.com/city/10076-money-race-democratic-nyc-mayor-2021-primary-january-filing https://www.gothamgazette.com/city/10076-money-race-democratic-nyc-mayor-2021-primary-january-filing Gotham Gazette:

l-r: (top) Eric Adams, Shaun Donovan, Kathryn Garcia, Carlos Menchaca, Zach Iscol (bottom) Dianne Morales, Scott Stringer, Loree Sutton, Maya Wiley, Ray McGuire


With under six months until the 2021 primary elections, candidates running for mayor filed their January campaign finance disclosures. The disclosures were due on Friday, covering the last six months of fundraising and spending activity. For a number of candidates, it was their first filing.

There are well over a dozen candidates running in the Democratic primary, the winner of which will likely be the next mayor because of the overwhelming number of registered Democratic voters in the city. The January deadline was crucial, as candidates attempt to show the support they’ve garnered among voters and campaign donors, and particularly because it will help determine the next round of public matching funds payments made to candidates by the city’s Campaign Finance Board on February 16. Only two candidates -- Comptroller Scott Stringer and Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams -- have qualified for matching funds prior to this upcoming assessment by the Board based on the new filing.

The Democratic candidates include Stringer, Adams, City Council Member Carlos Menchaca, former Citigroup executive Ray McGuire, former counsel to the mayor Maya Wiley, former city veterans services commissioner Loree Sutton, former city sanitation commissioner Kathryn Garcia, former nonprofit executive Dianne Morales, former federal housing secretary Shaun Donovan, veteran-turned-entrepreneur Zach Iscol, entrepreneur Joycelyn Taylor, former Campaign Finance Board member Art Chang, attorney Isaac Wright, Jr., and several others.

Former presidential candidate and entrepreneur Andrew Yang also jumped into the race last week, just one day before the campaign finance deadline, and has just begun raising funds, though he is expected to be able to raise them quickly given his base of support and the fundraising he showed in his run for the Democratic presidential nomination.

Stringer and Adams received public matching funds in December through the city’s program, putting both candidates well ahead of most others and nearing the money to hit the original spending threshold for the primary, though that ceiling is set to be lifted based on the fundraising by McGuire, who is not participating in the matching system and can therefore accept larger individual contributions. 

The matching funds program’s rules have been amended in recent years, setting a maximum individual contribution limit of $2,000 and matching the first $250 of every donation from city residents with public funds at an 8-to-1 ratio. Candidates must meet a dual threshold of raising a minimum of $250,000 from at least 1,000 donors who are New York City residents. Before any adjustments based on the fundraising of non-participating candidates, mayoral candidates who participate in the program can spend up to $7.3 million in the primary, as well as another $7.3 million in the general election. They can receive a maximum public funds payment of about $6.47 million for each leg of the race.

To even the playing field with participating candidates, CFB rules mandate that if a non-participant (here, McGuire) raises or spends more than $3.6 million in the primary, 50% of the $7.3 million spending limit for participating candidates, then that limit will increase by 50% to just under $11 million. If a non-participant raises or spends three times the limit, almost $22 million, then the limit will be eliminated entirely for all candidates.

Wiley is the only other candidate besides Adams and Stringer who has apparently qualified for public matching funds and expects a major windfall when payments are made in February.

Adams has raised more than $3 million in total and has spent about $746,000 as of the filing. He received nearly $4.4 million in public funds last month, giving him a hefty campaign balance of more than $6.6 million. In the last six months, he raised more than $426,000, and spent about $334,000. His latest disclosure also includes more than $122,000 in matching claims, which could mean roughly another $980,000 in public funds. Those claims are estimates from the campaign and are likely to change after they are audited by the Campaign Finance Board.

In total, $1.9 million of Adams’ fundraising came from New York City residents and about $750,000 from outside the city. He has 6,261 contributors, with an average donation size of $424.

Stringer is in second place in campaign funds. He has raised more than $3.25 million and spent about $820,000 overall. He got $3.37 million in public funds in December and another $38,000 payment on Friday. He has about $5.8 million in cash on hand as of the filing. In the last six months, he raised about $458,000, and spent a little more than $400,000. His campaign estimates that about $194,000 of that fundraising qualifies for matching funds, which could bring in almost $1.6 million for Stringer next month.

In total, Stringer raised about $1.4 million from city residents and $445,000 from outside. He has 5,517 contributors for an average contribution size of $329.

McGuire is the only major Democratic candidate not participating in the public funds program, which means he faces no limits on his spending and can raise $5,100 from individual contributors. He has already raised nearly $4.9 million and has spent about $1.1 million, all in the last six months, leaving him with about $3.75 million in cash on hand.

McGuire has raised most of his funds, $3.3 million, from city residents and about $1.5 million from outside sources. He has 3,709 donors and an average contribution size of $1,317.

Donovan, a former housing commissioner under Mayor Michael Bloomberg and a top official in the Obama administration as housing secretary and budget director, has raised more than $1.6 million for his campaign and has spent about $690,000, for a remaining balance of about $913,000 as of the filing. He has $152,000 in matching claims, which falls well below the $250,000 threshold for public funds.

Donovan raised $938,000 from city residents and $664,000 from outside the city. He has 2,044 donors for an average contribution size of $784.

Iscol is a relatively unknown first-time candidate but he has connections that have apparently helped him out-raise a number of other Democrats. His mother, Jill Iscol, is a major Democratic Party donor with ties to Hillary Clinton, and his father is a mobile technology entrepreneur. He has raised more than $746,000 and has spent just over $261,000, leaving him with about $485,000 in cash on hand as of the filing. His campaign estimates it has more than $229,000 in matching claims, just short of qualifying for public funds.

City residents donated $409,000 to Iscol’s campaign while $336,000 came from people outside the city. He has 1,943 contributors and an average donation size of $384.

Wiley has some name recognition from her time as a contributor on MSNBC, her previous role in the de Blasio administration, and her work as a civil rights attorney. She has raised more than $720,000, spent about $404,000, and has $316,000 in cash on hand as of the filing. Her campaign has made more than $287,000 in matching claims, which crossed the public funds threshold and will likely net her a major windfall of $2.3 million in mid-February, a major achievement.

Wiley raised $451,000 from city residents and $269,000 from noncity sources. She also has 6,976 contributors, the most of any candidate so far, with an average donation size of $103.

Morales has raised more than $336,000, spent more than $208,000, and has $127,000 in cash on hand as of the filing. Her campaign’s matching claims of nearly $180,000 are about $70,000 short of the public funds threshold. Morales raised $235,000 from city residents and about $100,000 from outside sources. Her campaign has 4,423 donors and an average contribution size of $76.

Garcia, who is running on management and having been Mayor de Blasio’s go-to fixer for several crises while also heading the sanitation department, has raised about $304,000 and spent only $27,000, leaving her with more than $277,000 in campaign cash as of the filing. Her campaign claims only $151,000 in qualifying contributions, which means she will not receive public funds next month

Garcia raised $224,000 from city residents and about $80,000 from outside. She has 1,572 donors with contributions averaging $194. 

Sutton is the only candidate who opted into the public funds program but chose to follow its older rules, which are still an option till the end of this election cycle. That means she can raise a maximum of $5,100 from individual contributors but will only receive a 6-to-1 match on the first $175 of every contribution. She has raised about $192,000 overall and has spent nearly all of it. She only has about $398 in cash on hand as of the filing. She has just $14,228 in matching claims. She raised $117,000 from city residents and $73,000 from outside sources. She has 448 donors and an average donation size of $425. 

Menchaca has raised about $62,000, spent $48,000, and has about $14,500 left as of the filing. Taylor has raised $60,000, spent $51,000, and has about $8,400 left. Chang has raised $57,000, spent $39,000, and has $18,011 left. Wright has raised $50,000, spent about $8,800, and has roughly $41,000 left. None of the other Democrats have raised $50,000.

There are few Republican candidates in the race and none have shown any significant fundraising.

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by Samar Khurshid, senior reporter, Gotham Gazette
     

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The Money Race in the Mayoral Primary: January Filing Sets the Stage for 2021 Sun, 17 Jan 2021 05:00:00 +0000
Our 2020 Conversations with the 2021 Candidates for Mayor https://www.gothamgazette.com/city/10033-2020-conversations-with-2021-candidates-nyc-mayor https://www.gothamgazette.com/city/10033-2020-conversations-with-2021-candidates-nyc-mayor 10 2021 mayoral candidates nyc

l-r: (top) Eric Adams, Shaun Donovan, Kathryn Garcia, Carlos Menchaca, Zach Iscol (bottom) Dianne Morales, Scott Stringer, Loree Sutton, Maya Wiley, Ray McGuire


New Yorkers will elect a new Mayor in 2021 and a large and growing field of candidates is forming in the race to replace term-limited Bill de Blasio, a Democrat.

Most of the action through 2020 has been in the Democratic primary, which will take place in June and is very likely to annoint the next Mayor given the party's overhwhelming voter registration advantage in the city (though New York City is no stranger to electing its Mayor outside of the Democratic Party, given the 20 years' reign of Republican Rudy Giuliani and Democrat/Republican/independent Mike Bloomberg).

As candidates declared their campaigns or explorations of a run for Mayor of New York City, we invited a number of those who appear most formidable to appear on the Max & Murphy podcast, co-hosted by Ben Max of Gotham Gazette and Jarrett Murphy of City Limits. As we move into 2021 we will no doubt have some of the candidates back on the show while welcoming new guests -- for example, we're eager to have city Comptroller Scott Stringer back on the program for the first time since late 2019 and to welcome Rep. Max Rose and entrepreneur Andrew Yang, among other returning or first-time guests.

But as the calendar turns from 2020 to what will be one of the most consequential election years in the city's history, we have had several interesting in-depth conversations with Democratic mayoral candidates, beginning to get to know them (better) and hear about their qualifications and vision for the immense job of New York City Mayor. Find links to listen to those interviews below, or find them all at Max & Murphy wherever you get podcasts, and look for new episodes starting in early January (the show typically first airs on WBAI radio at 5 p.m. on Wednesdays, then interviews are posted to the podcast streams and to the Gotham Gazette and City Limits websites shortly after).

Before we get to the candidate interviews, as 2020 was coming to a close we had a great conversation with Mara Gay of the New York Times editorial board and Sally Goldenberg, Politico New York City Hall bureau chief, in which we previewed de Blasio's final year as Mayor and broke down the race to replace him in broad strokes -- listen to that conversation here:

Max & Murphy Podcast: Previewing Bill De Blasio's Last Year as Mayor and the Race to Replace Him

Also in December, we spoke with candidates Ray McGuire, a finance executive of Citigroup, and Maya Wiley, a civil rights attorney and former counsel to de Blasio:

Max & Murphy Podcast: Ray McGuire is Running for Mayor

Max & Murphy Podcast: Maya Wiley Runs for Mayor

In November we welcomed three different mayoral candidates soon after their official announcements, including military veteran Zach Iscol; City Council Member Carlos Menchaca, and Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams:

Max & Murphy Podcast: Zach Iscol is Running for Mayor

Max & Murphy Podcast: Carlos Menchaca on His Campaign for Mayor

Max & Murphy Podcast: Eric Adams Launches His Campaign for Mayor

In September we were joined by Kathryn Garcia, who had just left her jobs in the de Blasio administration as sanitation commissioner and emergency food "czar" to explore a mayoral run:

Max & Murphy Podcast: Kathryn Garcia on Trash, Food, & Possibly Running for Mayor

In August, Shaun Donovan, a former Obama cabinet official and New York City housing commissioner under Mayor Bloomberg, joined the show to discuss his planned mayoral bid (he has since formally declared his candidacy):

Max & Murphy Podcast: Shaun Donovan Explores a Run for Mayor

In May BP Adams joined us to discuss the city's response to the COVID-19 outbreak, and we spent a short time discussing the upcoming campaign:

Max & Murphy Podcast: Brooklyn BP Eric Adams on the City's Coronavirus Response

In February, before everything changed due to the covid outbreak, we talked with two candidates who declared their candidacies fairly early on and have kept campaigning since, Dianne Morales, who left her job as a nonprofit executive to run, and Loree Sutton, the former New York City Department of Veterans' Affairs commissioner under de Blasio:

Max & Murphy Podcast: Mayoral Candidate Dianne Morales

Max & Murphy Podcast: Mayoral Candidate Loree Sutton

And in late 2019 we spoke at length with Comptroller Stringer, now a candidate for Mayor (and likely an early 2021 guest on Max & Murphy):

Max & Murphy Podcast: Comptroller Scott Stringer

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by Ben Max, Gotham Gazette
     

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Our 2020 Conversations with the 2021 Candidates for Mayor Wed, 30 Dec 2020 05:00:00 +0000